Meralco to refund pre-TRO payments
The Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) said it will refund customers who have already paid their new bills reflecting the higher power rates on which the Supreme Court imposed a temporary restraining order (TRO) last Monday.
“For bills coming out starting Dec. 23 to end-December, bills will already comply with the SC TRO, using the generation charge of P5.67/kWh. For customers who already paid before the SC TRO came out, adjustments will be made in subsequent bills in accordance with the final SC decision,” Meralco spokesperson Joe Zaldarriaga said in a text message.
Customers who have received their electricity bills but have not paid them yet will receive written notices on their “options,” Zaldarriaga said.
Earlier, Meralco officials said the company would abide by the high court TRO and would refund customers that had already paid for the generation rate increase (plus taxes and other related charges) in their December dues.
“We can easily refund,” said Meralco COO Oscar S. Reyes. He said the issues would hopefully be resolved before the next billing cycle.
Meralco has asked state regulators to help achieve some “clarity” on the situation but maintained that the long-term solution to power price problems would be additional capacity through new power plants.
Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla summoned key officials of Meralco, the power generation firms and the Philippine Electricity Market Corp. (PEMC), the operator of the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM), to a meeting last night on how to implement the high court TRO.
“The Supreme Court TRO must be implemented. I called the meeting to come up with an interim agreement and a way to share the costs at least,” Petilla said.
Meralco automatically collects the power generation and other pass-on charges from customers and these go straight to its electricity suppliers.
The Supreme Court issued a TRO on Monday stopping Meralco from collecting the increase in power generation and related pass-on charges for 60 days.
However, a complication arises as Meralco faces about P9 billion in dues to energy suppliers this month, of which about P6 billion was due to be paid yesterday to PEMC. The remainder goes to the power suppliers with which Meralco has bilateral contracts.
According to energy experts, simply stopping Meralco from collecting the power rate increase, without additional intervention, could short-circuit the energy market.
If Meralco, unable to collect from customers, fails to pay what is due the PEMC, it could lose its membership in the WESM. Should this happen, Meralco will be unable to source power from the spot market as needed, and that situation could result in power outages in Meralco’s coverage areas.
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